Archrivals collide Saturday as No. 2-ranked St. Thomas (13-0 overall, 7-0 MIAC) plays host to the Johnnies of the University of St. John's (3-9, 2-5). Tipoff is 3:05 p.m. in Schoenecker Arena.
Saturday's game will have a live telecast in the Twin Cities are on KSTC TV Channel 45 with Dan Terhaar on the play-by-play and Tori Holt as sideline reporter.
The game also will have live video at www.mnsportsnetwork.com
The also will have live radio at 660 AM The Behr.
St. John's won both meetings against the Tommies in 2011-12, its first series sweep in 18 seasons and first win on the Tommie campus since 2004. UST had won 10 in a row against St. John's before last season.
St. Thomas went 4-0 in an eight-day span to open the 2013 calendar year: an eight-point home win over Carleton; back-to-back 42-point wins over Augsburg and Bethel; and Wednesday's 81-60 win over Gustavus. UST held reigning MIAC Player of the Week Taylor Hall of Bethel to just nine points, 13 under his season average.
UST has a two-game lead on Concordia-Moorhead atop the standings.
Since losing at home 61-56 to Johnnies last Feb. 1, UST is 21-1, the lone loss in the NCAA playoffs on the road to eventual national champ UW-Whitewater.
St. Thomas received a No. 11 preseason rank in the d3hoops.com poll. The Toms have made a steady climb all the way to No. 2 this week, and the current No. 1, North Central (Ill.), lost on Wednesday, opening the door for UST or Middlebury to possibly reach the top if they stay unbeaten.
Men's Basketball is one of six UST teams currently ranked in the top four out of 435 institutions in NCAA Division III: Volleyball (No. 1); Football (No. 2); Men's Basketball (No. 2); Women's Basketball (No. 3); Baseball (No. 2); and Men's Indoor Track and Field (No. 4).
Tommie teams are a combined 78-3 this school year in the sports of volleyball, football and basketball, with all three defeats to top-five ranked teams.
Tommy Hannon has had double-doubles in points and rebounds in three of his last five games. In 55 games over the last three seasons, Hannon has recorded eight double doubles.
St. Thomas has started 13-0 for just the third time in the last 20 seasons. The 1994-95 Toms, in Tauer’s senior year as a player, had a 27-0 start before losing in round two of the NCAA playoffs. The 2008-09 Tommies started 30-0 before losing in the NCAA playoff quarterfinals to eventual champion Washington (Mo.).
St. Thomas has eight coaches and players who are graduates of nearby Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul: head coach John Tauer; assistant coach Mike Keating; seniors Tommy Hannon and John Nance; sophomore Kevin Hannon; and freshmen Taylor Montero, Cortez Tillman and Shaye Fields.
The Tommies are on pace to post their eighth consecutive 20-win season.
St. Thomas ranks No. 3 among alll Division III program in career basketball wins. UST posted win No. 1,500 in the program 's 104-year varsity history on Feb. 27, 2011 when it beat Gustavus 83-77 in the MIAC playoff championship. Only five D-III programs have surpassed 1,500 all-time victories -- Wittenberg (Ohio) (1,663), Wooster (Ohio) (1,588), St. Thomas (1,541), Illinois Wesleyan (1,537), and Hope (Mich.) (1,508).
St. John's coach Jim Smith is closing in on 750 career wins with 746 in 49 seasons, all in Collegeville. He has played 105 games against the Tommies, including nine in the postseason.
The Johnnies, who have lost four in a row, have three defeats by six or fewer points this season.
St. Thomas is playing 11 conference games in a 29-day span of January.
On November 1, the Tommies scored a 93-83 road exhibition victory over Winona State. The Warriors, 9-3 through December, came into the season ranked No. 11 in Division II and returned most of their top players from a 25-win team.
UST opened its regular season with road wins at Whitman and No. 14-ranked Whitworth. The Toms played the exhibition game and six of their first eight regular-season games on the road.
St. Thomas has seven players in its rotation who played in the March 2011 NCAA championship game victory over Wooster.
St. Thomas is averaging 85.8 points a game, with a shot to break a 39-year-old school record for season scoring average (83 ppg). Guard Will DeBerg (13.2 ppg) is the lone Tommie scoring over 11 points a game, but five others players are averaging from 7-11 points a contest.
St. Thomas starts four seniors, including three who are Class of 2008 high school graduates:
--Tommy Hannon is the lone returning starter from the 2010-11 NCAA championship team. He played nine games and averaged 16.7 points and 7.0 rebounds last winter before taking a medical hardship year.
--John Nance is a former scholarship football player with the Minnesota Gophers (QB), and didn’t play basketball his first college season.
--Noah Kaiser took a medical hardship his freshman season at St. John’s then transferred to St. Thomas.
--DeBerg, in his second season as a starter, has surpassed 100 career 3-pointers.
2011-12 Tommie men’s basketball shared the conference title despite having: 1) no MIAC Player of the Week recipients in the regular season; 2) no player ranked in the top 20 in rebounding in 20-game conference stats; 3) no player ranked in the top 15 in scoring in 20-game conference stats.
UST has a similar unselfish attack this season, with no players in the MIAC's top 15 for scoring. Eleven different players have made at least one 3-pointer, and 12 different players are averaging at least seven minutes.
St. Thomas is 71-3 against conference opponents on campus since January 2006.
The Tommies are 102-9 in home games over the last 10 seasons. They went 10-2 at home last season and are 30-3 in the new Schoenecker Arena in the three seasons since the AARC opened in 2010. UST also went 9-1 in home games in 2009-10 while playing off campus at Concordia-St. Paul during the AARC construction. UST previously went 62-5 at home in its last five seasons in the old Schoenecker Arena (2004-2009).
Over the last four seasons, UST is 10-0 in postseason on-campus games.
This season, St. Thomas is 7-0 on the road, and also scored a 10-point exhibition game victory at Division II Winona State.
The Toms received 27 points a game from bench players last winter, and the number has climbed to 38 ppg thus far in 2012-13.
St. Thomas men’s basketball has 118 victories over the last four-plus seasons -- the most in Division III. The Toms’ 118-15 won-loss record includes a 29-3 record in February games.
St. Thomas has captured seven consecutive solo or shared conference titles -- a feat only accomplished once previously by an MIAC program (Hamline, 1946-53).
Last winter, St. Thomas made the MIAC playoffs for the 24th time in a 25-year span. UST is 28-14 all-time in the MIAC playoffs, including a 25-6 on-campus record, and now has a league-best 11 playoff crowns, including six of the last seven.
St. Thomas secured a top-two conference finish for the 10th time in the last 11 seasons. The Toms have won 27 MIAC regular-season and 11 conference playoff titles.
Second-year head coach Johnny Tauer has guided the Toms to a 35-7 record. Prior to taking over the program in May 2011, he was an 11-year assistant coach. He previously was a four-year player at UST from 1991-95.
He’s just the third head coach for Tommie men’s basketball since 1954.
Tauer is the latest St. Thomas head coach to guide a team to the MIAC team championship in his/her first season. He’s UST’s fifth rookie coach to win a crown in the last 11 years alone, joining John Tschida (2001 softball), Thanh Pham (2003 volleyball), Sara Evens (2005 women’s golf) and Chris Olean (2010 baseball).
St. Thomas ranks among the national leaders in field-goal percentage at .531 and 3-point proficiency (.433) while averaging only 12 turnovers.
The Tommies are ranked No. 1 in a pair of Division III computer rankings:
Massey Computer Rankings:
St. Thomas is the lone NCAA institution at any level to win a team national championship in each of the sports of men’s and women’s basketball, softball, volleyball and baseball.
Over the last three seasons, the Tommies are 19-3 against non-MIAC teams.